By Corey Schaefer
When I was a kid, I wanted to be in business. Back then, I didn’t know it would be a business of my own. I inherited my entrepreneurial spirit from my dad, who was always starting new endeavours in different industries. Growing up in Kitchener, Ont., I remember my family was always very close; we played plenty of sports and spent a lot of time together. Opening my Buck or Two Plus! franchise in nearby London, Ont., has allowed me to provide that same style of upbringing to my three sons.
It started with a paper route
I got my first job at 10 years old, delivering the Toronto Star. In high school, I started working as a busboy for Mother’s Pizza. I worked my way up to become a server and then bartender there before I left Kitchener for university. When I went to the University of Guelph to study marketing, I transferred to the chain’s local restaurant, which helped me pay for school. I stayed with the company for five years.
While I was in university, I completed a couple of summer co-op terms. I worked at pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson in the Kitchener area, where I was responsible for merchandising several of their key products. Another summer, I had a placement working at Ultramar. I was in the Kitchener and London areas promoting their custom credit cards.
In 1991, I saw a newspaper ad for a sales representative position at Rust Craft, a greeting card company owned by American Greetings. Back then, there was a recession going on. I was one of hundreds of applicants for this one position, but I was successful in getting the job. The role was in the company’s wholesale department in Toronto and involved calling on key accounts to sell our cards at food and drug stores.
After 18 months in Rust Craft’s wholesale division, I moved to the retail side of the business for Carlton Cards, which distributed American Greetings’ cards. In this position, I was responsible for 17 retail stores in the London area. My career at Carlton Cards lasted for more than 20 years. Over that time, I went from district manager to regional manager. Toward the end of my tenure with the company, the retail division got spun off to Papyrus.
I was asked to be a brand manager for Papyrus, responsible for maintaining a consistent image at stores in Ontario and Quebec. It was an interesting experience to go from a $2-billion company with American Greetings to Papyrus, a much smaller company focusing solely on retail.
As is the case in the corporate world, there was some restructuring at Papyrus. Given the small footprint of the company’s retail stores, it was determined the role of brand manager was no longer required.
Although I found myself without a job for the first time in decades, the success of my career up to that point and my wife’s steady job as a Grade 2 teacher allowed me some time to think about the next step to take.
Finding Buck or Two Plus!
I looked into getting back on the traditional career path, thinking I might join another large corporation. Opportunity presented itself once again in a newspaper ad. I saw Buck or Two Plus! had an opening for somebody to take over a new franchise in London. There were a lot of elements at play helping me decide this was right for me.
When I was a brand manager at Papyrus, I was responsible for anywhere from 20 to 30 stores, so I got to know a lot of shopping malls—especially in southwestern Ontario, Toronto and Montreal. I always said Cherryhill Village Mall was one of the best malls I had ever been to. I helped open the Carlton Cards store in this mall. I promoted the store to the director of leasing and helped her pitch it to American Greetings, so I was quite familiar with the area. This is where the Buck or Two Plus! franchise was going to open.
To me, retail seemed to offer many of the elements I was looking for in a career: dealing with people, making sales and providing great customer service. I had learned a lot about merchandising, loss prevention and other necessary skills during my time at American Greetings and this ended up being the training I needed to become a retail franchisee.